If you’re a fan of video games then chances are you owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Gunpei Yokoi. An employee of Nintendo since its modest days as a hanafuda card game manufacturer, he was instrumental in ushering the company to video game glory through the 80s and early 90s, most notably with his creation of the Game Boy.
His post-Nintendo life was cut tragically short in 1997 when he was stuck by a passing car on the freeway while examining his own vehicle following a minor collision. Nevertheless, his legacy can still easily be felt in video games today and his impressive history can be read straight from his grave according to a new photo posted on Twitter.
The photo was taken by a Twitter user who happened to stumble upon it while visiting his own wife’s family’s grave.
“This is the late Gunpei Yokoi’s grave. Engraved on it are his achievements of the Nintendo era. It is diagonally-opposite my wife’s father’s grave. She hates video games and never takes an interest in them, so she’ll never understand or even try to understand all the greatness that is just over there.”
故横井軍平氏のお墓。墓碑には任天堂時代の功績が刻まれている。 うちの嫁の父親の墓の斜め向かいにあったりするのだが、ゲームに興味ない所か毛嫌っている嫁にはこれがここにあることがどれだけ凄いことか理解してないし理解しようともしないorz http://t.co/StmZBWzaiD—
ぶたおやじ (@manchanbuhibuhi) May 12, 2015
Printed on a side tombstone to the full Yokoi family grave was a brief list of only a few of Yokoi’s works. First, in 1968 there was the Ultra Machine. This was a toy batting machine that would be used at home. Then 1973 brought Laser Clay, a laser gun skeet shooting game installed in bowling alleys that would pave the way for Duck Hunt and the NES Zapper.
In 1980 there was the Ten Billion (Barrel) puzzle where you must move colored balls through a series of rotating discs. Also in 1980 was possibly Yokoi’s most important creation the Game & Watch series of handheld LCD games that proved to be a huge success for Nintendo and moved it further towards the video game market.
Then in 1989 came Gunpei Yokoi’s masterpiece, the Game Boy. What really needs to be said about the most dominant portable game machine of its day? The Game Boy brought the megahits Tetris and Pokémon into the mainstream.
Image: Wikipedia – Evan-Amos
Anyone would probably be thrilled to claim this list of credits alone, but that still doesn’t do Gunpei Yokoi’s influence justice. We could probably add his contributions to Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. not to mention Metroid and Kid Icarus. Yokoi is also credited with creating the cross-shaped directional pad which is still more or less the standard interface on game controllers today.
And although he’s probably a little relieved it was left off the tombstone, Yokoi should still be proud of the ambition that led to the failed Virtual Boy, a 3D game system and unintentionally a migraine generator.
Twitter users who saw the photo may have stumbled across one more mark on gaming left by Yokoi: his family mark.
Prominently carved into the proper grave of his family is the Mitsu-uroku. This family mark or “kamon” was used by the Hōjō clan who held power during the Kamakura Shogunate nearly a thousand years ago. This arrangement of triangles is also recognizable to Zelda fans as the Triforce.
It would seem that the Yokoi family is a part of the Hōjō lineage and shares their kamon. As one plausible theory goes, the Triforce was based not on the Hōjō clan, but on Gunpei Yokoi’s family crest. Considering Yokoi worked closely with The Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto on several projects, it seems a safe bet.
Gunpei Yokoi’s final resting place, adorned with his gaming achievements, serves as a reminder to the rest of us to keep track of our own accomplishments. So far my tombstone will have “1991” marked down. That’s when I created a Game Genie code for invincibility in Ninja Gaiden for the NES that you couldn’t find in any codebooks. After that, let’s see…
Well, that’s it so far, but I’ve got time.